Hernandez v. Texas and SAISD v. Rodriguez

Hernandez v. Texas (1954) is the first and only Mexican-American Civil Rights case in the contemporary era. The Texas court of criminal appeals ruled that since Mexican-Americans are racially classified as “white.” Therefore, the court ruled, it would not be unconstitutional for someone Mexican-American to be convicted of an all-white non-Hispanic jury.

Given that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, the state of Texas needed to rely on other justifications to justify anti-Hispanic outcomes, or what we can call systemic racism. One example arose in SAISD v. Rodriguez (1973).

Less than 20 years after Brown v. Board ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional and inherently unequal via the 14th Amendment, SAISD v. Rodriguez held that education is an important right but not a fundamental right. Therefore, Hispanic/non-Hispanic disparities in education did not violate the 14th Amendment, specifically given the case of stark differences between Edgewood ISD vs. NEISD funding–a difference of nearly $300 per student thanks to higher neighborhood wealth. Between Alamo Heights ISD and Edgewood, property wealth in Edgewood generated $38,854/student; for Alamo Heights, this was $570,109/student.

I am a bit sad I was never taught this in Texas. Of course, this was the same education system that taught us that the history of Texas begins with Stephen F. Austin and Anglo settlers of the region. But its no surprise here that if you are taught that your point of national pride lies with white settler colonialism — and a particular privileging of the narrative of Anglo settler triumph over Mexican and indigenous groups already existing in the region — that you would not be taught how these legacies are exemplified within the Texas or U.S. judicial system.

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